“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Farewell to The Oil Drum

Graphic credit: TheOilDrum.com
For those interested in a holistic understanding of our energy predicament from an educated and technically savvy point of view, there are a variety of sources of data (BP supplies two of them, the U.S. Energy Information Agency, EIA, is another), there are many blogs devoted almost entirely to energy (some are linked in the blog roll to the right of this post), and many more that touch on the topic.

But occupying a unique place among those who study energy and especially fossil fuels was The Oil Drum. The last post in this amazing resource was made on September 22, 2013, and the site is now an archive of the incredibly deep, varied, and informed discussion that has comprised the site's content since April, 2005. It will be a valuable resource for years to come.

The Oil Drum's demise has been described by its editors as being due to "a dwindling number of contributors" and high costs (both in terms of time and money). Unsurprisingly, those who believe in the fairy tale that the free market can create an infinite supply of a finite resource trumpeted this development as indicative of the capitulation of the "peak oil fanatics" to the technological and financial developments that will always and inevitably overcome resource scarcity.

Without getting into a deep discussion of what "peak oil" really means, suffice it to say that it predicts a plateau and then a decline in the rate (yes, rate) at which oil can be extracted as we exhaust the easiest and cheapest sources first and then the progressively more difficult and expensive sources. All this transpires in the face of increasing world wide demand and massive growth in demand from developing nations. The free market "true believers" (and I lean in this direction but am willing to be flexible in the face of data) believe that price will solve all problems of both source and rate. The chart below indicates otherwise (data from the BP site linked above). While oil prices have multiplied ten-fold since 1976 (albeit in nominal $, but see below), production has risen by a bit under 30% in the face of ever growing demand in the developing nations, especially China.

Update: Dan took me to task in a comment for only showing nominal crude price. I've added an inflation adjusted price using CPI-U data. The inflation adjusted price has risen 116% while production has risen 30%.

Learned discussion by knowledgeable experts at The Oil Drum of the technical, economic, and political aspects of energy availability (not at all limited to crude oil) will be sorely missed. While the thoughts and writings of many of the regular contributors to The Oil Drum can be found elsewhere (and links to many of their blogs and web sites are available at the final post of The Oil Drum) and the articles and comments archived for use, the lively discussions are irreplaceable.

Farewell to the site and to its participants!


Dan said...

" While oil prices have multiplied ten-fold since 1976 (albeit in nominal $)"...

"Albeit in nominal" is a VERY big albeit! Compare the guardian's story on inflation-adjusted oil prices. Nominal prices are really misleading.

Rob Ryan said...

You're correct, of course. I've added an inflation adjusted plot to the chart to show this. I believe that the point is still quite valid.